Ballot bio: Iowa’s 23rd District

Sarah Haas

Tim Gartin 

ISU students face staggering debt when they graduate. What do you think is the best way to help?

The issue of increased tuition is just one symptom of a much larger problem. The additional symptoms would be increased class sizes, failure to retain quality professors and the elimination of majors. All of these are symptoms. The cause of this is mismanagement at the state level. In Iowa, education accounts for about 60 percent of the state’s budget. This leads me to the reason why I’m running for the Iowa Senate. As a state we spend more money than we have. This is not because of the recession.

In fiscal year 2007, we had a budget gap of about $50 million. That’s certainly not a big deal for a state of our size, but in 2008 the expenditures exploded. We increased the price tag and created a budget gap of $440 million dollars. We continued to spend at that level. In this coming budget cycle, we are looking at a gap between $750 million and $1 billion. The way we have been so-called balancing the budget is that we have relied on $750 million on onetime funds that will not be present in this coming cycle.

There are two options that are available if we don’t cut expenditures. We can borrow money or we can raise taxes, and neither of those options are going to solve our problems. I think we have to cut this budget. We will have to look at the budget line by line in a responsible careful manner. I am adamantly opposed to across-the-board cuts. Culver did that, and it was irresponsible and lazy.

Students are having difficulty finding jobs after graduation. What will you do to stimulate job growth?

I went to Des Moines and met with some people whose livelihood is to go out and bring companies to Iowa. They told me that when companies consider where they’re going to locate a business there’s one threshold issue: Does the state have a strong right to work status, which means that nobody can force you to join a union. We have had a bill called Fair Share that forces fees on non-union members, which my opponent has repeatedly voted for. He is voting a pro-union platform, which is at odds with economic development in Iowa.

Another issue we need to resolve is the fact that our commercial property taxes are way out of whack. Our businesses have one of the largest property tax burdens in the country, and we should incrementally start reducing the tax rate on commercial property taxes.

There are also a number of issues surrounding the regulation of businesses. One of the functions the state has is to provide regulations to protect our environment and us, but there’s always a balance to be struck and you always have to be sure the cost of regulation is warranted to the cost. This balance is way out of whack. In some cases, the regulatory benefit is significantly outweighed by the cost in agricultural and small businesses regulations.

I am a huge fan of the ISU Research Park. These are well-paying jobs and I would be anxious to try to expand the research park. But here’s a fundamental difference between my opponent and me: I understand why we have a great research park. It’s because we have a great university. We have to keep the university strong.

What are the most important differences between you and your opponent(s) this election?

One of my biggest challenges is that my opponent refuses to admit that we have an unbalanced budget. As an alumnus and a resident of Ames, I am very concerned with the representation that Iowa State has had in the Iowa Senate. One of the things that has happened along the way is I’ve had many people come to me and say my opponent has not been enough of an advocate for the university. If he had been communicating honestly with where we are I wouldn’t have run for office. I refuse to see this university harmed. If we don’t take care of this budget, we won’t take care of the university.


Herman Quirmbach

ISU students face staggering debt when they graduate. What do you think is the best way to help?

I think the first thing we can do is keep tuition down. We need to restore funding to the university. Back in 2001 we had a recession, and the state budget was cut and the universities were cut pretty severely. That set off a wave of major tuition increases that increased the cost of going to school. I never want to have that kind of thing happen again. What we did about four years ago, the Board of Regents and legislature made a deal to restore the funding that we lost and in return the Board of Regents would hold the increase to a rate of inflation. I think we should work out a deal along those lines again.

Another thing we must do is increase scholarship aid. The governor created something called the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship program that is helping kids from modest income backgrounds to help students go to regents universities and other colleges. I’m also a big fan of the work-study program. A lot of work-study jobs involve working with faculty doing lab assistance or grading assistance. Students get to work one on one with faculty members and learn research skills outside the classroom. It’s a great program and I can say without trepidation that I have been responsible for every state dollar that has gone into the program in the past couple years.

Students are having difficulty finding jobs after graduation. What will you do to stimulate job growth?

Biorenewables have a great future and are one of three areas of economic development prospects. Biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and information technology are the three key areas ideal for our state.

We need to look a lot of different areas for generating jobs. Really, given the international environment if we want to maintain the standard of living we have to have jobs and we have to have workers with the skills to fill the jobs that other people can’t do. It will go more to the high-technology end. Information technology and information security is, I think, a key area. We brought IBM to Dubuque, we brought Google to Council Bluffs, Microsoft to West Des Moines.

Bringing high-profile companies that are not likely to be outsourced as easily as other types of jobs.

We have the best ground around, a solid K-12 education system and some pretty good universities and people with a great work ethic. One of the key elements in all of this is ensuring that we have skilled workers. Community colleges have to provide ongoing training to both young people and 45-year-olds who lost their jobs and have to retrain.

Iowa State is committed to green energy, but what can you do to help us make the university and the state more green?

I think we’ve got a lot of things going here that have a lot of potential. There is no one solution. The solution to environmental problems and energy problems are going to involve developing a lot of different technologies. Eventually we’re going to run out of coal, oil and natural gas. The carbon based fuels have finite supplies and it’s getting ever more expensive and dangerous the extract them. So we’ve just got to keep up the pressure. There are a lot of jobs and investment opportunities.

I think top of my list for accomplishments are the incentives for wind energy. Iowa is, I think, first in the country for per capita wind production. We’re in competition with Texas and California. That’s as green as it gets. You’re not burning anything

We have 100 wind towers up here in Story County and that adds to the property tax base and that helps our schools and tends to ease the property tax burden. It also creates jobs. We now have facilities to create the wind turbines and another to repair them. These are jobs that tend to go to rural Iowa where we need the jobs.

We should also continue to promote ethanol with some tax breaks. I think most people understand that corn-based ethanol is an intermediate solution to the problem. I think as far as ethanol is concerned, the research is going in the direction of using other sources than corn. We need to develop a technology to make that source of ethanol commercially viable. We also need to invest in places like Iowa State to develop the research for those technologies. This year we dedicated the Biorenewables facility, which was entirely state-financed for $32 million.

What are the most important differences between you and your opponent(s) this election?

The Republicans are proposing a 15 percent cut in state funding. Governor [Terry] Branstad has repeated it often. My opponent has signed on to that and endorsed it. They won’t tell you what you’re going to cut. I have pressed my opponent repeatedly. The one thing that he will say is he would like to cut the preschool program.

A 15 percent could [and] would mean the loss of $33 million dollars to Iowa State. If you made up for that by increasing tuition, you would raise the cost of a four-year degree by about $6,000. Also, it would mean a cut of $375 million to K-12 education, our public schools. Something that most people realize is that almost half the money the state takes in we turn right around and cut checks to local school districts. That’s $2.5 billion out of our total state budget. To translate that, it’s roughly about 8,000 teachers jobs. Community colleges take a $25 million hit. Community college tuitions are already among the highest in the country.

He will tell you we have to be careful and go through line by line, but 15 percent isn’t a scalpal. It’s a meat axe. We’ve already done a lot of re-organizing.

He’ll criticize us for using one-time funds to balance the budget, the $80 million we put into the regents. The overall purpose of the federal recovery act was to get us through the depths of the recession without doing permanent damage to our social services. Would he have sent that $80 million back to Washington? We put $220 million back into the public schools.

The Federal Recovery Act is tapering off, but state revenues are coming back. We have enhanced savings from the surpluses. Between the revenue coming back and additional reserve funds, I think we can handle the budget situation. I have told absolutely nobody this is going to be a generous budget year, but it’s manageable.